One of the biggest tasks during the Christmas season always seems to be the cookie baking. There’s something about Christmas that calls for cookies. And cookies in abundance. And many different types of cookies.
This used to lead to me spending hour upon hour in the kitchen baking up batch after batch of cookies.
I do enjoy baking, but it began to take over my December as my children got older and had their own requests for me to bake.
I also enjoy hosting parties.
One year, I decided to take the plunge and host a cookie swap with my friends. It was the perfect solution to my extra cookie needs and limited baking time! It also satisfied my love of parties!
Here are my top ten ideas for hosting a cookie swap:
1. Decide on your date as early in the season as possible.
2. Send out invitations, request RSVP’s, and follow up on RSVP’s as early as possible.
3. Have each guests send you their recipe ahead of time so that you can compile a take-home booklet of their recipes.
4. Each guest will bake as many dozen cookies as you have guests (if you have 10 guests, each guest will bring 10 dozen cookies)
5. Save boxes as those holiday gifts arrive from your online purchases in order to package up cookies to send home with your guests.
6. Plan your party menu early so that you can buy your ingredients a bit at a time.
7. Plan your cookie early and, if possible, choose a variety that can be mixed up ahead of time, formed into balls, and frozen.
8. Decide if you want to play games and if so, gather all needed items, print any needed papers, and assemble them together.
9. Decide on the music you’d like to play during your party and get it downloaded to your iPod or other device ahead of time.
10. Build excitement by sending e-mails every so often to your party guests. This will also serve as a reminder to them of the party.
I have found that some ladies do not like to bake and therefore, want to bring a no-bake cookie or dessert. You must decide ahead of time if you want to allow this or not. When making your guest list, take into consideration things such as dependability, baking ability and/or desire, and how much leeway you will afford your guests. One year, one of my guests had some kitchen issues, so I did not mind her bringing a simple chocolate bark instead of a baked cookie since her oven went out and she had no way to get her cookies baked.
It’s my personal feeling that all cookies should be baked and some effort put into them. Decorations and such should be included. If it’s a sugar cookie, it should be decorated. I use the cookies from my cookie swap as our family’s Christmas cookies. This saves me time and energy. However, if those who attend my swap were to bring simple items such as chocolate-covered pretzels, those would be gone in no time and don’t really require the same effort as actually baking 10 dozen cookies, ya know?
Having a plate decorating contest adds a little excitement to the evening. By this, I mean the plate of cookies to be shared should be decorated as elaborately as possible. Judge plates and award the winning guest a small prize. Another game I like to play is to try to figure out which guest brought which cookie. You can do this as you are showing the decorated plates and have everyone write down which plate they believe belongs to which guest. This particular game requires your guests to enter your home and discreetly give you their cookies so others can not see. We have a separate utility room off of our kitchen and I have my guests enter this room first, giving me their cookies before entering the kitchen with the rest of my guests.
When the decorated plates are brought out, place those on the counter or buffet if you are planning to serve a small meal as well. This is what I usually do. My typical menu will consist of a tossed salad, veggie tray, cheese & cracker tray, baked potato skins, fruit tray, and meatballs in sauce. We eat this meal first, chat, judge the decorated plates, and then get down to the cookies while we play other games.
I keep the remaining cookies, which have been brought separated into individual containers holding a dozen each, in the utility room. At some point, during the party, I will slip out to that room to box up each guest’s take-home box. This is where the boxes you’ve been acquiring for the last month or so will come in handy. Write each guest’s name on their box, then fill it with a container from each of the other guests.
While we enjoy the cookie array, we play several games. One of my favorites is the Guess The Songs of Christmas game. Another is a Christmas Trivia Game. We’ve played games such as Pictionary and Scattergories as well.
Hosting a cookie swap is a great way to usher in the Christmas season. I’d love to hear your cookie swap stories, either as a host or attendee!